Campaigners against plans to dump mud from the construction of the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station into the sea off Cardiff Bay say a ground-breaking legal decision in Japan highlights the potential risk to public health and wildlife posed by the proposal.
In February environment watchdog Natural Resources Wales confirmed they had received an application from EDF Energy, who want to dump 800,0000 tonnes of sediment dredged as part of building work for the new plant at Hinkley Point, the site of the disused Hinkley Point A facility.
Two years ago, EDF were given the green light to dump 300,000 tonnes of mud off the Cardiff coast.
The Hiroshima District Court last week recognised the health effects of radioactive fallout with a ruling that gave “hibakusha” (survivor) status to 84 people who, as children, had been affected by inhaling and ingesting radioactive particles in the “Black Rain” from the nuclear bomb the USA dropped on Hiroshima 75 years ago. The Japanese government is reportedly set to appeal against the decision, which would extend state health care benefits to people who were outside the zone currently recognised by the government.
Richard Bramhall, who advises Geiger Bay on the likely effects of radioactivity in the mud, said: “Uranium is the key ingredient in nuclear technology, both bombs and reactors. Widespread pollution by tiny particles is the result. The nuclear industry has always covered up the health effects of particles because the truth is fatal to their technology. Many governments are complicit, even in Japan – the only nation to have suffered a nuclear attack”.
“Studies of the effects of uranium-laden fallout from hundreds of bomb tests conducted by Russia, Britain, and the USA during the 1950s show serious increases in infant mortality at the time, with increased incidence of cancer and leukaemia as the surviving children grow older. The Chernobyl reactor number 4 contained at least 200 tonnes of uranium, of which an unknown amount burned and was spread around the world. Many scientific studies show a large increase in congenital malformations in children born subsequently.”
Geiger Bay a non-partisan coalition of scientists, experts, individuals and organisations formed to oppose the plans for the sediment to be deposited in the sea off the Cardiff coast, say the uranium particles must be left in the mud at the bottom of the Severn Estuary.
Richard Bramhall added: “Well-known mechanisms will ensure that if particles are dumped as EDF intend, they will be re-suspended in the air and blown inland. We have incontrovertible evidence of inhalable radioactive particles in a car engine air filter from near Hinkley Point. EDF and the authorities must exercise the greatest care not to cause even more of the same kind of pollution.”
To date, Geiger Bay has challenged the Welsh government to instigate a full investigation into the contents of the sediment through a full (EIA) Environmental Impact Assessment by NRW (Natural Resources Wales).
The Welsh government has formed an Expert Committee to examine the issues around the proposed dump. The committee first met on 20th July.
Activists have written to Dr. Jane Davidson, the chair of the committee who was Minister for Environment (2007 – 2011), as well as the First Minister, Vaughan Gethin, Minister for Health and Social Services; Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs reminding them of their responsibilities with regard to the Environment (Wales) Act of 2016. In addition, Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner, received a letter citing the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015 which states public officials must consider the impacts on future generations including healthy and productive seas.
Geiger Bay has put forward their arguments and sought full transparency in decision making. It has asked for open meetings, and that agendas and minutes be published in the public domain. The group have also demanded the committee draw in leading independent experts to give evidence on the dangers of the proposed dump.
So far, they have yet to receive any official response to these requests but have subsequently discovered sampling is due to commence on 19 August despite earlier assurances the extent of the sampling was “under examination and query” and would be considered later this month.
Cian Ciaran, musician (Super Furry Animals) and campaigner, who launched a case in the High Court against the licensed mud dump in 2018, added: “The proposed dump is just 3km from the south Wales coast and 4km from the Welsh capital. We want to know the radiological impacts on the people and environment of south Wales.”
“The nuclear establishment cannot be trusted so we are reliant on NRW and the Expert Committee and the Future Generations Commissioner to uphold the health and safety of Cymru, not to facilitate the Westminster government’s obsession with new nuclear. The Welsh Labour government must uphold Welsh law. “
“The dump runs contrary to the Future Generations Act, and although well-meant this looks to be legislation with no real teeth.”
“Is the same true of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016? It must be invoked to address the mounting uncertainties and questions left unanswered. The latest news from Japan serves to remind us this is a global industry with huge human health and environment impacts. We cannot simply wait 75 years for the answers after a dump into the sea off Cymru. Precautionary principle first and foremost with proper scientific evidence a priority”
“Transparency was promised with the Expert Committee, yet engagement is non-existent, indeed what are the questions being asked by the committee and what evidence are they seeking in respect of those uncertainties?”